The Sri Lankan government has appointed two senior army commanders, who are both suspected of committing mass atrocities, as ambassadors.
The Foreign Ministry announced that former army commander Jagath Jayasuriya and former army chief Daya Ratnayake have been nominated as envoys to Brazil and Pakistan respectively. Both held senior positions during the last phase of the armed conflict, which saw grave violations of international humanitarian law.
Giving diplomatic posts to army officers is a trend initiated by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, which saw suspected war criminals in the military, including Shavendra Silva and Jagath Dias, given diplomatic posts, which would provide them with diplomatic immunity while travelling.
The appointments casts further doubt on how genuine the government’s apparent efforts to engage with Tamils are, with victims of the crimes long demanding international prosecution of those guilty of the mass atrocities.
On Wednesday, the same day the diplomatic postings were announced by the foreign ministry, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera in a speech to parliament, appeared to reach out to Tamils critical of the government.
“We owe it to our nation to keep distinct those who espouse a violent separatist agenda from those who express concern about the welfare of the Tamil people. We must not confuse those who raise funds through illegal activities to promote their violent agendas with those who voice concern about the displaced or the detained. This distinction is important if our country is to turn its back on its violent past for good. Engagement and dialogue are essential to ensure that those who hold dissenting views are heard and that those who suffer grievances may resolve them without having to resort to violence,” he said.
Silva ‘not appropriate’ for UN body (23 February 2012)